Category Archives: Elder Law

Elder Law. Advanced directives. Power of attorney. Living will. Health care power of attorney. HIPPA. DNR. Long Term Care Insurance. Medicaid. Medicaid Penalty Period. Medallion Signature. Social Security Payee Representative.

Who makes decisions if your divorce is not finalized?


I came across a blog the other day that made a very important point.  If you are in the process of divorcing and have a medical emergency, who will make decisions on your behalf?

When Lamar Odom was recently found unconscious in a Nevada brothel and was rushed to the hospital, who did the officials call?  They called Khloe Kardashian.  Although they are in the process of finalizing their divorce, in the eyes of the law, they are still married and unless an advance directive for healthcare states otherwise, is the person who can make medical decisions on his behalf.

Unless you just don’t care, when you are getting a divorce, it’s critical that you update your advance directive to name someone other than your soon to be spouse to decide what the doctors should and shouldn’t do if you have an accident or a sudden health emergency.

To find out more about advance care directives and planning for the end of your life, go to

California passes right-to-die law

131754-gov-jerry-brown_1This past week, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a bill into law that makes it legal for a dying person to end his or her life.  When Brown signed the bill, he also released a letter to the state assembly explaining why he agreed to sign it.

He said, “The crux of the matter is whether the State of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering.  In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” Brown wrote. “I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

The law requires that patients are able to administer the life-ending drug themselves.  Also, their decision must be submitted in written form, signed by two witnesses and approved by two doctors.

California becomes the fifth state to have a right-to-die law.  New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington are the others.

For more information about end-of-life decisions, go to

Your Medicare premium may jump 52% next year!

cost increaseThere’s a Social Security Administration law that says that if they fail to boost the annual cost of living adjustment in any given year, they can raise the cost of Medicare for wealthier subscribers. Since the SSA has announced that there will be no cost of living adjustment for 2016, more than 15 million United States seniors will face a premium jump from $104.90 to $159.30 or more.  This is because of a little known law that punishes wealthier Medicare users when that adjustment is not made.

The only way this can be avoided is if Congress or the Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell intervenes. If you want to weigh in on this issue and try to stop the increase, contact your congressman immediately.

For more information about Medicare and other issues related to our aging population, go to

Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to

Medicare to pay for end-of-life care counseling

Effective January 1, 2016, Medicare plans to pay doctors to speak to patients about their end-of-life care. The doctors will provide counseling and discuss options that range from care that’s more focused on comfort than extending life to doing whatever is possible to resuscitate a dying patient. Some doctors are already having conversations about this topic with their patients but are not billing for it.

Medicare payment will ensure that more doctors will have these conversations which many feel are critical to high-quality care.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report last year which found that few people make their wishes known so many deaths “are filled with breathing machines, feeding tubes, powerful drugs and other treatments that fail to extend life and make its final chapter more painful and unpleasant.” The report, “Dying in America” is free as a PDF or can be paid for and ordered as a bound volume.

While most people have given thought to how they would like to die, many have found it difficult to communicate those views and choices to family and loved ones and, in many cases, family and loved ones have their own perceptions and views about death that can influence discussions about dying.  Most people envision their own death as a peaceful and an ideally rapid transition. However, with the exception of accidents or trauma or of a few illnesses that almost invariably result in death weeks or months after diagnosis, death usually comes at the end of a chronic illness or the frailty accompanying old age. Even though death is very much part of the cycle of life, thinking and talking about one’s own death usually remains in the background, at least until its prospect become more probable or imminent.

Thru the new Medicare offering doctors will be able to discuss with their patients how they would like to die, and to encourage them to put their wishes on paper and share those wishes with their family.